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Tech Final Hurdle For Unbeaten Tennessee Lady Techsters’ Running Game Leaves Wolfpack Dreams In Dust

For a few moments anyway, North Carolina State could dream the dream.

Then came Louisiana Tech’s devastating running game. Hello, reality.

State’s giddy run through the NCAA Tournament to its first trip to the women’s Final Four was shot to pieces just like that, the victim of a lightning fast break that carried the Lady Techsters to an 84-65 semifinal victory - and a shot at the national championship - Friday night at Kemper Arena.

Tech (31-3) advances to Sunday’s title game against Tennessee, an 86-58 winner against Arkansas.

“Their transition game just beat our defense down the floor,” Wolfpack coach Kay Yow said after her team finished its season at 25-7. “We lost that battle, and that’s our strength. That was our knockout punch, and we didn’t have it.”

That’s because Tech beat the Pack to the punch time and time again, either stealing the ball or turning rebounds into quick outlet passes to guards LaQuan Stallworth and Tamicha Jackson, who combined for 34 points and 14 assists. For the night, Tech scored 18 fast-break points to none for State.

Early in the second half, Tech’s break broke the game open. The Lady Techsters had thoroughly out played State in the first half, forcing 15 turnovers and dominating during a 14-0 stretch in which the Wolfpack failed to score for 5 minutes.

But at halftime, the Wolfpack was still hanging around at 41-32, thanks to Chasity Melvin’s 16 points. When Tynesha Lewis scored on a give-and-go layup to open the second half, Tech’s lead was a shaky seven.

Suddenly, the game was over. Tech tightened its defense, turned up the jets and rocketed by stunned Wolfpack players almost before they could blink. The Lady Techsters reeled off the next 12 points, including 10 in just 1:38, to push the lead to 19 on Amanda Wilson’s layup with 15:14 left.

“We want to get in a running game,” Stallworth said. “That’s what we’re good at. That’s what we like to do. If we’re tired, we know they’re tired, so we just keep on running. Coach told us, ‘Just keep on running.”’

State never recovered. Melvin tried to carry the Wolfpack back into contention as she scored a semifinalgame record 37 points as State pounded the ball inside at every opportunity.

“We needed the transition game,” Tech forward Monica Maxwell said, “because when they got into the half-court game and got the ball to Melvin, she was unstoppable.”

But she got no help from the rest of the Wolfpack, especially gifted freshman guard Lewis, who finished with seven points, one assist and six turnovers.

“I must say I’ve had better nights,” she said. “You have ups and you have downs, and this was a down.”

Not for Tech, which countered Melvin shot for shot, led by Stallworth’s series of acrobatic layups and Jackson’s outside jumpers. Maxwell gave Tech its biggest lead with a 3 that put it up 78-52 with 3:48 left, and the Lady Techters coasted into their sixth NCAA title game.

“When we came to Louisiana Tech, all we wanted was an opportunity,” Maxwell said. “Sunday we’ll have the opportunity to hang not only a Final Four banner, but a national championship banner. You can’t ask for more than that.”

La. Tech 84, N. Carolina St. 65

North Carolina St. (25-7) - Lewis 3-9 0-1 7, Shepard 2-4 0-0 4, Melvin 14-26 9-15 37, Jones 3-7 1-2 7, Gillespie 1-2 0-0 2, Erb 1-3 0-0 2, Wallace 1-4 0-0 3, Williams 1-4 1-2 3, McLendon 0-0 0-0 0, Bates 0-1 0-0 0, Poteat 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-60 11-20 65.

Louisiana Tech (31-3) - Maxwell 4-9 2-2 14, Wilson 10-15 0-1 20, Burras 4-11 0-2 8, Stallworth 7-12 4-5 18, Jackson 7-16 1-1 16, Snider 0-0 1-2 1, Burn 0-0 0-0 0, Cochran 0-1 1-2 1, Butler 0-0 0-0 0, Scheppmann 1-2 0-0 2, Gilmore 1-3 2-2 4, Bowman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-69 11-17 84.

Halftime-Louisiana Tech 41, North Carolina St. 32. 3-Point goals-North Carolina St. 2-7 (Lewis 1-2, Wallace 1-3, Gillespie 0-1, Williams 0-1), Louisiana Tech 5-12 (Maxwell 4-9, Jackson 1-3). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-North Carolina St. 35 (Melvin 9), Louisiana Tech 41 (Maxwell 12). Assists-North Carolina St. 12 (Williams 4), Louisiana Tech 21 (Stallworth 9). Total fouls-North Carolina St. 16, Louisiana Tech 18. A-NA.